Buoyed by optimism, CSU students head to the UN Climate Talks
Original article by Mary Guiden can be found here in Warner Source
A handful of students and several professors from Colorado State University will soon depart for Glasgow in Scotland and the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference. The students’ motto, “Voices of Optimism, Agents of Change,” will be showcased during a press conference and other events they’ve been selected to lead at the climate talks.
Known as the COP, or Conference of the Parties, this event marks the 26th time that people from around the world will meet to ensure more money is spent on climate action and how to support developing countries investing in green technologies.
Climate Talks veteran and CSU Associate Professor Gillian Bowser from the Warner College of Natural Resources will lead the student group. She has been coordinating with multiple groups on campus to ensure travelers will be safe, given continued concerns about COVID-19.
Bowser helped students from CSU and partner universities — including Vanderbilt, Michigan Tech and the University of Connecticut — prepare through a class on international negotiations with a focus on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
“Our students will speak as our future scientists at COP26,” said Bowser. “They have ‘voices of optimism,’ since the current Administration wants to create programs like a civilian climate corps to work on our public lands.”
The universities have formed a partnership known as The Youth Environmental Alliance in Higher Education or YEAH Network, which is supported by the National Science Foundation.
“I’m thrilled that Colorado State University is sending a group of students to COP26 to engage on the world stage in conversations critical for Colorado and for our planet,” said U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO), whose district includes Larimer County.
“Our young people are our future, their ingenuity and activism will be critical in solving the climate crisis, and their voices are absolutely vital as we work to build a brighter future and solve the challenges our communities are facing.”
Growing optimism among youth about climate change
CSU’s Jacob Genuise, a master’s degree student in ecosystem science and sustainability, has taken the lead in planning for events at COP26. He studied meteorology and atmospheric science as an undergraduate at the University of Oklahoma before starting his graduate degree at CSU in the Warner College of Natural Resources.
“Young people really see climate change as a challenge, but also a way to reshape the world and make it more equitable,” he said.
Genuise said that there’s growing optimism about climate change among young people.
“We can do something beneficial in the long-term for equity, inclusion and social justice within climate change,” he said. “We are scared about climate change but also really optimistic about what this conference could mean for the future and reshaping institutions.”
Kaydee Barker, a senior at CSU, is also studying ecosystem science and sustainability. She is one of the founders of the Livable Future podcast, which aims to educate the public about sustainability and environmental science. Barker and CSU alumnus Cody Sanford will produce COP26-specific episodes for the podcast.
Before starting her degree at CSU, Barker spent five years traveling in the U.S., Central America and in the South Pacific. Barker said that the experience had a profound impact on her.
“I saw climate change in a way I’d never seen it before,” she said. “It was life changing, and it made me want to make a difference, to go to bat for my friends now that are around the world in different ecosystems.”
Maryam Tidjani, who plans to graduate in December from CSU, grew up in Cameroon, a country in Central Africa. She knows first-hand how climate change can impact people if we don’t take action.
“I have a different way of seeing this and am also looking at it with a critical eye,” she said. “Coming from Africa, I am not as trusting of the UN. I’ve seen the UN work well, and I’ve seen it work not so well. Sometimes organizations can make empty promises or take too long to follow through.”
Tidjani hopes to work in the realm of energy transitions and urban sustainability after college. Her skills and education will be helpful as cities decide to move sources of energy from fossil fuels to cleaner energy, water, wind or solar power.
“We need more ‘hands on deck,’” she said. “People should get involved and incorporate principles of sustainability in their lives, to make it everyone’s solution to find a better way.”
Professor Julia Klein, who taught the international negotiations class with Bowser, will also attend the UN climate talks.
Construction management faculty also attends U.N. summit
John Killingsworth, an assistant professor in the Department of Construction Management, teaches financial management of construction and conducts research on the circular economic cycle of the built environment.
Killingsworth said that he hopes at COP26 to influence future thinkers and others regarding the way in which people design and build structures.
“Circular economic principles and ideas are just at the cusp of making significant changes in our approach to development, design and construction,” he said. “This presents an opportunity for CSU to be at the forefront of this research.”
The School of Global Environmental Sustainability manages CSU’s participation as an official observer organization in the UN Climate Change Conference. Anyone interested in attending a climate change meeting as part of CSU’s delegation can contact Aleta Weller for more information. SoGES provides credentials only. Attendees must finance and arrange their own travel.